Inappropriate Technology

The theory behind epoxy composite construction, more specifically the combination of epoxy resins and wood, is that the modern polymer is able to encapsulate and thereby stabilize the ancient building material and thereby overcomes one of its major limitations. Unprotected wood when exposed to the elements breathes the gases around it like a living tissue, which it was, and absorbs or releases water. Its precise dimensions therefore suffer from a constant flux of contraction and expansion. The creaking of stairs and the crackling of roofs, the squeaking of spars and stringers in a wooden boat are all sonic expression of the dimensional instability of these cellulose building blocks. Cracks in posts, gaps in joints and peeling paint are its corresponding optical eyesores. The magic of combining the hyper stable but brittle epoxy with the fickle but strong wood is that the former encapsulates the latter, isolating it from the whimsical variations of its environment. Once the exchange of gases and humidity is stopped the dimensional variation of timber is now reduced to those caused by temperature, which is in most practical applications negligible and much more in tune with other common building materials.

Plywood is the ideal candidate for this marriage of materials. It is an by itself already designed to be more stable than bare timber and the addition of epoxy makes it the almost ideal material to build complicated structures like boats and airplanes. Bamboo with its extraordinary strength and stiffness would also be a happy contender if it weren’t for the fact that, while the spongy nature of plywood makes it a thirsty absorber of the epoxy resin in its liquid state, the wooden grass has chosen to protect itself with a waxy coating of its surfaces that does not allow epoxy to penetrate without further work intensive procedures. So the marriage between bamboo and epoxy, when insisted upon, is usually not a happy one, very seldom productive and various forms of divorce, separation and other forms of legal wrangling are most often not very far down the road of the rocky relationship.

Aluna’s spars, the sticks that spread out her sails into the wind, are of such questionable construction. They’re fabricated from long, slowly dried culms coated with epoxy and a layer of glass fiber cloth wrapped around and soaked also in the polymerous resin. While the sanding of the bamboo previous to the application of the epoxy coating has permitted the uneasy concubines to live in relative harmony most of time, some exposed areas where there is ample friction or abrasion are a constant pain in the bundled banana jelly jar. So far the problem consisted mainly in the peeling off of the glass fiber tissue, and a couple cracks in the paint here and there. But just yesterday I had to learn of a new and most peculiar variant to the persistent problem. Aluna now sports sail covers of almost professional looking quality, which we fabricated out of a discarded sail that was given to us by a more materially bestowed fellow sailor. They do a very good job of protecting the sails from the destructive rays of the tropical sun while they are taking time of from active service and rest along the outboard hull sides of our double canoe. Of course, every good comes with its own portion of evil, so as this incident indicates, when protecting it from the sun it also keeps in the humidity, which leads to the breeding of some very special kinds of vegetables.


Those wonders of the fungal kingdom are not unpleasing to the eye. Their geometry leads the muscles of the eyes to perform mantic compulsions and stimulates the optical receptors in the retina to dance all kinds of cosmic grooves. When I’m reminded however of the fungi’s vast network of feeding tubers deep inside the substrate they’re living on, I imagine their penetration into the structural integrity of the bamboo culms and the damage they must be doing there to the magnificent strength of our sailing rig. I cannot help myself but let my usually quite peaceful thinking spirit wander into the treacherous and nonreversible realms of brutal extermination, reciting musty maxims of the cowardly art of chemical warfare. I dig deep into my rusty toolbox and get out the sharpest of my box cutter blades to slice off those fruity marvels of parasitic growth and sever the connection of nutrients that feeds the timely transformation of our tried and true technology into geometric riddles of singular beauty. The self-defense of purposeful living battles the chaos of freedom to stand still in awe of meaningful deviations to the will of diligently meditated determination. The surgeon to the lord of practicality has removed the cancerous growth with a careful but decisive incision, coldly calculating the chances of being able to nudge the unsettled destiny of evolution a fraction of a fingernail towards the preferred side of rational control, and thereby increasing my odds of landing in a world of comfort and relative ease, from where I can calmly contemplate the sad state of the world around me, listening with heartfelt attention to my closest brothers and sisters perish in a pungent bog of unnecessary suffering. This might all sound a wee bit far fetched, but in spite of your most justified concern it is meant to stand strong as a cordial invitation to be aware of the minute and intrinsically complicated ramifications of consequence inborn incomprehensibly in every little fraction of your noble actions, and of your more plebeian reactions.

3 Responses to “Inappropriate Technology”

  1. allan aunapu Says:

    I’m loven the privlage of shareing the story. Please forgive my spelling.

  2. allan aunapu Says:

    Did my blog about Get through?

  3. allan aunapu Says:

    Fiji that is.

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